'I'm happy'

Jaylen Walton was close with Houston Nutt and staff. But Nutt was dismissed nearly a month ago. Ole Miss officially changed coaches Monday.

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Hugh Freeze, formerly of Arkansas State, was hired to replace Nutt, who coached four seasons in Oxford. Nutt was fired following a disastrous season in 2011, one where the Rebels suffered their worst season record-wise in program history. Ole Miss finished 2-10.

Walton took a wait-and-see approach throughout the search for a new head coach. He entertained the overtures of other schools, most notably Purdue, Mississippi State, Wake Forest and Southern Miss.

He was anxious. He was nervous. To keep Walton, Ole Miss had to make the right hire.

"I'm happy. It was good for me, ‘cause I'm still committed," Walton said Monday night. "I kind of like the things Hugh Freeze does with the offense. It fits me pretty well. He's a real laid back, fun coach. I went to go see him practice a few times down at Arkansas State. I was initially impressed, ‘cause he had the team hyped up and he was having fun with the job. I'm glad he's at Ole Miss. He can bring something to the table down there."

Freeze, like Walton, is from Memphis, Tenn. Freeze kept in contact with Walton, rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com, throughout the recruitment process, even after Walton committed to Ole Miss in July.

Walton is excited. However, he plans on keeping his options open. Freeze has work to do to keep Walton committed. A running back, Walton holds a number of offers, including Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and Notre Dame, among others.

Jaylen Walton
Yancy Porter

"I'm really excited right now, but I'm still keeping my options open," he said. "I've still got official visits to take, so I'm going to take my visits and see how the other schools are outside of Ole Miss.

"Right now, I'm still committed. But my options are open."

Walton has visits scheduled to Purdue, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss. He said his potential fit in Freeze's offense is intriguing.

Freeze is an offensive-minded coach. Schematically, he relies on multiple personnel groupings and formations. A fitting comparison is that of Auburn's offense under Gus Malzahn. Freeze's offense is based in the same family, but an original interpretation.

Walton rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior for Ridgeway High School. He is rated the No. 55 running back in the nation, according to Scout.com.

"He can get the ball to the play-makers in different situations," Walton said. "He's a good coach. Hopefully he can bring a winning season to Ole Miss. With the freshman class they had this year, they did pretty well for being freshmen. Me coming in being a freshman as well, that gives me motivation because if they could do it their freshman year, then I can probably come in and compete for my spot as well and show out like they did. I think we got a good amount of talent, and I think we can make it far."

Mathers approaching with caution:

Three-star running back I'tavius Mathers committed to Ole Miss in August. Then the Rebels made a coaching change.

He remained committed but, like Walton, he kept his options open. Freeze was introduced as head coach Monday. Mathers, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., heard the news from his high school coach Monday morning.

"I found out earlier today," he said. "My high school coach told me he's a pretty good guy and a pretty good coach. I just knew who he was off the movie "The Blindside." I knew he was Michael Oher's coach. That's the only thing I knew."

Freeze was expected to contact Mathers Monday night. Mathers, who rushed for over 2,200 yards as a senior, said his commitment is currently stuck in neutral. He's eager to hear how he fits in with the offense.

Mathers holds offers from a number of schools, including South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

"I'm still committed, but I still have my options open in case I don't fit in to the offense," he said. "I have South Carolina, Arkansas and Vandy looking at me. If he convinces me and says I can fit into his offense, I think I'll stay."

Mathers has official visits scheduled to Ole Miss and South Carolina.

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